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Scientists sending tumors to ISS to study cancer in space

Posted at 9:21 AM, Apr 08, 2022

SAN DIEGO — A team of UC San Diego scientists is sending tumors into space as part of the Axiom Space inaugural commercial flight, using a SpaceX rocket to travel to the International Space Station.

“If you can’t solve the problem on earth, see if you can solve it in space," said Dr. Catriona Jamieson, who took several members of the team to Cape Canaveral, Florida to witness Friday's launch.

Jamieson is part of an effort to study cancer. She says space is a useful place to do research because of the harsh environment.

“This compresses the timeframe," she said in an interview Thursday with ABC 10News in San Diego.

"So in one month, we see the aging in cancer stem cells or our normal stem cells that we see in a one-month period that we would see in a 10-year period on earth.”

The Axiom Space crew will transport the needed elements to the ISS, including the cancerous tumors.

The ISS astronauts will conduct the experiments according to Jamieson's team's instructions, while the scientists can watch in real-time back on Earth. Some of Jamieson's postdoctoral researchers at UCSD developed the techniques to be able to do the experiments.

“You create this little network where everyone knows what they’re doing and everyone contributes to this impossible experiment," said Jessica Pham, a deputy lab manager.

“I never could have ever imagined I’d be part of something this amazing and so incredible in such a historic moment," said Dr. Luisa Ladel.

The team hopes to learn how to grow cancer cells in space, as well as whether they can stop the cells from replicating. This could have significant implications for the ability to develop new medicines and treatments on Earth, as well as for helping keep astronauts safe as space travel becomes more common.

“This is a dream worth chasing. Making humanity healthier," said Jamieson.

The launch is scheduled for Friday morning, with early weather indications looking promising for launch time. The experiments for Jamieson's team are scheduled for next week.

This story was first reported by Jeff Lasky at KGTVin San Diego, Calif.